Reed Smith partners approved the law firm’s merger with Richards Butler of London on Thursday, adding about 250 attorneys and making Reed Smith one of the world’s 20 largest firms.

Reed Smith partners approved the law firm's merger with Richards Butler of London on Thursday, adding about 250 attorneys and making Reed Smith one of the world's 20 largest firms. 2

The deal will give the Downtown firm a more substantial presence in London, Europe’s financial capital, and vastly expand its litigation and business-transaction practices on the continent. It will add such Richards Butler clients as financial services giants Barclays plc and the Royal Bank of Scotland, the parent of Citizens Bank.

Reed Smith will have about 1,330 attorneys when the deal is completed on Jan. 1. All Richards Butler lawyers agreed to join the new firm. The combined firm should have estimated revenue “north of $750 million” in 2007, said managing partner Gregory Jordan, by phone from London.

Richards Butler operates four offices, including sites in Greece and Abu Dhabi, where Reed Smith has no presence. It already has about 70 lawyers in London and about 30 in Paris and Munich.

Negotiations continue with an affiliated firm with 100 lawyers in Hong Kong over joining the merger, he said. “That’s an important market for us,” said Jordan, noting Reed Smith represents U.S. Steel, PPG Industries and Wabtec in China, but has no office there.

“We’ve had a strategic goal to become bigger and stronger in London, and to be a stronger international firm on top of that,” said Jordan, who will head the new firm. It will retain the Reed Smith name, except in the U.K. and Europe, where it would go by “Reed Smith Richards Butler.”

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